As we head into mid-September, autumn is rapidly approaching (even if the weather in your area may not feel like it yet!). This, of course, means fall festivals, family trips to the pumpkin patch, fall-inspired craft beers and, of course...
...football and tailgating!
As we all know, tailgate parties can be celebrated in a variety of ways. Whether you are getting ready for the game in the stadium parking lot, in the comfort of your home or maybe even in your backyard, one of the things that always brings people together is the food!
Even if your team isn’t competing for a playoff spot or an appearance in a premier bowl game, the parties can still be fantastic and memorable. And, the food is central to these celebrations — it really is what can make or break a great party.
To help you prepare for your next tailgate, here are some ideas that will give your family and friends something to cheer about!
Keep it simple!
Remember, these celebrations should be fun for everyone -- the last thing you want is someone stressing over the food! Plan out foods where you can do most of the preparation ahead of time, allowing you to savor the game-day celebration. Dips and desserts can be made in advance, meats can be marinated overnight, and other ingredients can be prepped for a stress-free game day.
Flavor, flavor, flavor!
For example, if you are making wings, rather than just smothering them with barbecue sauce, try the Sweet and Spicy Baked Chicken Wings...this Asian-inspired sauce is so good it could also be used on chicken breasts, burgers and more.
A great trick to add a ton of flavor is to marinate meat the night before…perhaps with chimichurri sauce. Use some of the sauce to marinate your meat, and then use the rest for a flavorful topping when the meat comes hot off the grill.
- Grilled Chimichurri Chicken and Veggie Skewers
- Steak Panini with Fontina Cheese
- Guinness Marinated Steak Sandwiches
Keep it in-season!
There is so much great fall produce, and including them in the party can take your festivities to another level.
- Pumpkin - Thai-Inspired Autumn Hummus, a fantastic dip that can also be used as a spread for sandwiches.
- Sweet Potatoes - Baked Sweet Tater Tots and Loaded Mexican Sweet Potato Fries.
- Butternut Squash - Butternut Squash Veggie Bake (great with tortillas as a Mexican inspired dip), Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, and Fire-Roasted Sloppy Joes (can even be served over spaghetti squash).
- Roasted chili peppers (especially Hatch chilies) - Hatch Chile Stew and Hatch Chile Burgers.
- Apples - Sliced Apples with Date Caramel Apple Dip and Baked Apples with Oatmeal Cookie Granola.
- Pears - Cabbage, Apple and Pear Salad, Pear Tartine, and Pomegranate Pear Salad.
- Roasted Butternut Squash Fajitas -- "amazing flavor" and "so good you don't even miss the meat" are just a few comments we have heard about these delicious veggie-style fajitas!
- Savory Root Vegetable Soup
- Mexican Veggie Loaded Tacos
- Slow Cooker Chipotle Veggie Chili
Ready to watch a dessert be devoured? Make the Harvest Pumpkin Bars or Pumpkin Poppers (or Pumpkin Sheet Cake) and stand back! (Plus, they are gluten free!) You could also introduce breakfast cookies (that are delicious enough to enjoy anytime!) - try the Chunky Monkey or Chocolate Bliss Breakfast Cookies!
Belly up to the bar!
Yes, drinks are an important part of these parties, and food bars are a great way to feed a crowd and allow everyone to customize their meal.
- Burger Bar - if your tailgate celebrations start in the morning, cooking up some eggs can add a great flair to burgers. Try the Fajita Burgers, Hoisin Burgers or Need a Napkin Burger.
- Taco Bar - Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa and Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos.
- Sweet Potato Bar - cook them in the slow cooker the night before, and they are ready to go on game day. Then, prepare toppings and encourage your guests to get creative! Southwest Stuffed Sweet Potato, Loaded Sweet Potato with Mexican Chili, BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potato, Enchilada Style Stuffed Sweet Potato, and Thai Stuffed Sweet Potato.
- Soup Bar - Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup Bar lets each guest customize their own bowl!
- Popcorn Bar - using an air-pop popcorn popper and any of these flavor combinations will have your guests raving about your creative snacks... Dark Chocolate Drizzled, Pizza, Sweet and Spicy, and Kettle Korn!
Slow cooker magic!
The slow cooker is a great way to feed a crowd and it does most of the work for you!
- Chili - Mexican Chili and Steak and Sausage Beer Chili.
- Soups and Stews - Chicken Tortilla Soup, Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup, Butternut Squash Minestrone, and Moroccan Beef Stew.
- Pulled Chicken - Slow Cooker Asian Chicken and Mexican Style Slow Cooker Chicken.
- Pulled Pork - Slow Cooker Autumn Pork Tacos and Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Tenderloin.
- Shredded Beef - Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches -- don’t forget the Giardiniera topping!
Versatility is an asset!
Just like your favorite team needs versatility in its players, look for versatility in your food. For example, Hatch Chile Guacamole could be your food MVP because of its amazing flavor -- serve it as a dip or a topping. Seriously, this stuff is amazing and addictive...make a batch (or two) and watch it disappear! And, if you are looking for a crowd-pleasing and flavor-loaded side or appetizer, a few more excellent ideas include:
- Simple Salsa Fresca
- Crunchy Coleslaw
- Middle Eastern Nachos
- Layered Mediterranean Dip
- Seven Layer Dip
Of course, there is nothing wrong with traditional burgers and brats and other party staples, but we hope this provides a few ideas to break out of the routine and create an even more memorable and delicious game day experience for your family and friends!